Dezeen Magazine

The Line at Neom

The Line height "is a bit stupid" says Peter Cook

British architect Peter Cook, who is working on the controversial The Line mega city in Saudi Arabia, has reportedly questioned whether the project will be realised according to plan.

Speaking at an event to mark the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the wider Neom project in Venice, the architect questioned the viability of The Line, which is planned to be 170 kilometres long and 500 meters tall, according to a report in the Architects' Journal.

The Line "an interesting possibility"

Asked directly by Neom's chief urban planning officer Antoni Vives whether The Line would be built, he suggested that it may not be fully realised.

"I'm going to give a very English answer, it's an interesting possibility," said Cook, according to the report. "You know I think [they'll] get a bit of it done."

"And then I think – I'm going to speak honestly now, as long as you don't cut me off – I think higher than 500 metres [in height] is a bit stupid and unreasonable and all our engineer friends will tell you this."

Official statements from Neom state that The Line mega city, which is set to house nine million people, will consist of twin parallel skyscrapers that will be 500 metres tall.

Peter Cook
Peter Cook (above) spoke The Line (top) at a talk to mark the opening of an exhibition on Neom

The initial section of The Line, which Dezeen believes is being designed by US studio Morphosis and is named the Hidden Marina, is set to be 500 metres high in line with the project's initial design.

However, Cook suggested that some sections of The Line may not reach this height, saying that 150 metres was a "quite agreeable" height and that some sections could be 50 metres high.

Following the talk, Cook clarified his comments to the Architects' Journal stating: "We were sketching possibilities on the height of The Line in Venice."

"The discussion of ideas was informal, exploring the different height variables of The Line," he continued. "After the Hidden Marina is built, I may eat my hat and say 500 metres is even more fun!"

Neom architects
Cook was among the architects at the Neom exhibition opening. Photo courtesy of Neom

In response to Cook's comments a spokesperson for Neom stated: "Zero Gravity Urbanism is revolutionary and perhaps unimaginable, particularly when seen through the lens of the past and in light of existing failed urban models.

"With the current environmental crisis and the shortcomings of our cities to deliver on human needs, a solution this innovative becomes a necessity deserving to be delivered with unwavering commitment," they added. "Construction on The Line began in mid-2021 and the first district, the Hidden Marina, is due to welcome its first residents and visitors by 2030."

Cook and his studio CHAP, are one of several studios reportedly working on The Line. Other studios featured in the exhibition in Venice included Morphosis, Adjaye AssociatesDelugan Meissl Associated Architects and Studio Fuksas. In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Studio Fuksas founders Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas explained their designs for The Line.

"Interestingness in architecture is very important"

Cook, who was one of the founders of highly influential experimental architecture studio Archigram, has previously been critical of architecture not being interesting enough. In 2016 he said that British architecture was experiencing a "dull period" and in 2018, in response to Foster + Partners proposal for a viewing tower in London, he said that architects "take themselves too seriously".

However, he praised the uniqueness of The Line and compared it to the usual nature of the city of Venice.

"It could become a great touristic success," he said. "it's no more absurd than a city like the one we are in, in the middle of a pond with ground that subsides etc."

"Absurdity is perhaps the positive," he continued. "Interestingness in architecture is very important."

The Line is planned as one of 10 regions within the Neom development in northwest Saudi Arabia, which is one of the largest and most controversial in the world. We recently published a guide to the development, which explains the project and why it is controversial.

It has been criticised for its human rights record with ALQST reporting that three members of the Huwaitat tribe, who are believed to have criticised displacements connected to Neom, have been sentenced to death.